Category Archives: social writer

Looking for awesome? Rent ME!

It’s that time again. Time to roll up my shirtsleeves, wipe the sweat from my brow and hit the pavement internet looking for work. My six years of agency work is almost done, and in another month, I’ll be flying solo. And broke. Possibly homeless. (Don’t tell my kids.)

Unless, of course, there is someone out there who would like to pay me a comfortable living just for being awesome. Anyone? I am awesome, I promise. Even when I’m sleeping. Sugar daddies welcome. Well, without the sugar… or the daddy bit. Just send me your money.

In addition to writing, editing, social media consulting and the other shameless credentials I’ve noted below, I can also walk your dog, buy your groceries, give you a massage (I don’t touch feet), build you a deck,  teach you new cuss words, pour concrete, punch bees, mow your lawn, taste-test meals sent from your enemies, plant your garden, build you a lego village, change the oil in your car, sing you to sleep (although my fees for that one are particularly steep),  alphabetize your canned goods,  yell at your children (I’m highly skilled at this), blow up balloons, and internet stalk your ex’s new partner.

Please tell your friends, family, neighbours, co-workers and all the strangers you pass on the street. Together we can end this insantiy and I can get back to writing my novel with peace of mind. I’ve grown accustomed to my house and I would like to stay in it.



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Filed under Social Media, social strategist, social writer

What does social media success look like?

The success of any social media program is irrevocably tied to the initial expectations of the program.  What did you think was going to happen?

“We’ve integrated the Social channels & Social personality into our everyday business and we’re now seeing unprecedented positive service sentiment and we’re very happy with the steady (organic) growth of loyal and engaged followers over time.” – said no client EVER.

Having a clear formula for success up-front is crucial to your expectations. And having clear expectations up-front is crucial to your success.  But this is not the chicken or the egg.  Expectations can come in many shapes and sizes. They are very complex and multi-faceted. Here is my top 10 list of expectations that MUST be internalized or the overall perceived success of your program will be decreased significantly.

Expectation #1:  Your entire decision-making team must ALL have the same expectations and the “buy-in” needs to be top-down.

Expectation #2:  You need to work hard to be relevant. This is not the Field of Dreams—you must do more than build it.

Expectation #3:   Be more concerned with measurable engagement than the number of followers.  Vanity metrics is good for your ego, but is not sustainable and can be manipulated in the bottom line.  Seek to win consumer trust and brand advocacy instead.

Expectation #4:  You must provide customer service in social channels with a purpose and commitment that may leave you vulnerable and transparent. Be accountable, timely and consistent with your community.

Expectation #5:   Keep evolving. This space is dynamic—changing constantly.  Take risks in new channels and with new creative brand storytelling angles. Stretch outside your comfort zone, there are no hard and fast rules. The worst that can happen is nobody joins you. Go ahead and blaze some trails.

Expectation #6:  The size (number of followers) of your current social communities is NOT the size of your engaged audience at all times.  If you have 10,000 followers on Facebook, I assure you that they are not all collectively holding their breath until you release your amazing $10 off coupon.  Refer to expectation #2.

Expectation #7:  You MUST advertise your Social presences (online and off) if you want to jumpstart your community numbers. It doesn’t matter what you have to say or offer if nobody is there to hear you.  On-going advertising is worthwhile to COMPLEMENT organic growth and raise awareness outside your established communities.

Expectation #8:  Social Media is not an overnight success. Be patient. Your success will be determined by your audience sentiment (they will tell you if you have a successful Social program) and not your internal measurement. Traditionally, majority customer sentiment determines a brand’s service quality—and this tradition has not changed.

Expectation #9:  Establish trusted brand partnerships that will keep you connected to Social/Digital trends and strategies in order to keep you evolving. Adopt Social policies internally and train team members in best practices and engagement philosophies.  People say and do stupid things online, and your employees are people.

Expectation #10: As communities grow, so will the number of hours you need to commit to maintaining them. This is where things really start to get interesting—and consequently where most brands abandon their social ship citing budget restrictions.  Momentum is key. Don’t let your mouth write a cheque that your actions can’t cash. (Yeah, actions isn’t what I was thinking either.)

With a base understanding of realistic expectations, you can start to formulate what success will look like to you. Set goals, use benchmarks, and try and have a little fun.


Filed under Social Media, social strategist, social writer

eBegging—does your brand reek of desperation?

Do you keep asking your customers to Like or Follow you without giving them a reason to engage with you?  Do you know what that looks like to them?

Don’t get hung up on the numbers

How many followers do we have on Twitter?  How many fans on Facebook?  We need more fans—increase that number!  Go! Go! Go! 

Gah! Don’t be motivated by scalp count.  What’s the value of a Facebook Like if you have to ask, beg or bribe to get it?  This will build you a following of semi-interested individuals that don’t want to be bothered by you.  Is this a fundamental principle of your Social strategy?   Please no.   Don’t be that brand.

Even in the off-chance that you do convince them to Like or follow you, it doesn’t mean they’re going to read (or even see) any of your posts aside from the one that bought them.  That person just becomes a number on your wall.  Some of you may use these numbers as metrics to support the ROI of social to your company.  However, if I’m not reading your posts or engaging with you, should I be included in that ROI assessment?  I’m never going to buy—I’m just here lurking for free stuff.  You’re fudging your numbers to the C-Suite mister.

“Some studies show that a whopping 90% of Facebook users don’t return to a fan page once they click the Like button.”  – Mari Smith, Social Media Examiner

Do the work for the Like or Follow

Social media is the law of attraction versus interruption.  You attract others through your credibility, your honesty, your direct engagement, and your humanity. You demonstrate and bring value to the relationship.  Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?  OR you can continue to nag, interrupt and slam anyone who will listen with your advertising song and dance jazz-hands.

It all comes back to one simple principle.  The content you publish will attract the audience you are trying to reach.   It’s good content for the good of the people.  Offer solutions to questions and problems without openly pitching your business.  Show your expertise with relevant content.  Allow those already following to share in their communities—sending real interest back to your page.  Consumers are more likely to take notice of what you are doing this way.  Show them the credibility, honesty, humanity and direct engagement you have with others.  Be a giver and the fruits of your efforts will come back tenfold.

As with traditional marketing, exposure increases familiarity which in turn increases recognition with your brand or company.  You have just increased your chances of becoming top-of-mind when it comes time to make a purchase from a brand within your industry.

It’s time to stop begging for Likes and start delivering content that makes them want to Like you.   Then, and only then, have you earned the right to ask for anything.

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Filed under Social Media, social strategist, social writer

the content whisperer

Magazines were the original social networks. They filled a void for otherwise isolated individuals and the content transported them outside their community.   Brands promoted their products through this early network with static advertising placement that shouted “LOOK AT ME.  BUY ME.  LOVE ME.”

Early television formats featured someone standing motionless at a microphone telling stories.  Much like the technology evolution from radio to television, this print to digital content evolution has left folks standing around delivering static content in a dynamic environment.  Technology changes faster than corporate mindset.

Thankfully, the gap is starting to close and we’re seeing Brands and marketers leading with diversity in content innovation.

Social networks are about sharing.  It’s important to understand the distinction between sharing, and being shared with.  Value, not persuasion, is the core of the social sharing ecosystem.  Content must be dynamic not static—put the microphone down and put on your dancing shoes.

As a brand, providing value in content is about storytelling.  Storytelling is a long-standing tradition at the heart of all families, communities and cultures.  Effective and dynamic story-telling develops deeper, emotional connections that allow readers to be a big part of the experience.

So, how do you tell an effective story?

Imagine your brand as a big book of stories.  Each story must have your brands corporate message baked in (not obvious posturing), it must be relevant, timely, provide value, allow for consumer interaction, and be engaging.  You want your audience to turn the page and read the next story, don’t you?

With that in mind, let’s use Coca-Cola’s 70/20/10 content rule.  70% of your stories should be the low-risk, solid useful content your audience expects—appealing to all audiences.  20% of your stories should be higher-risk, solid useful content that is directed to specific segments of your audience—your loyal consumers.  The last 10% of your stories are where you can set your hair on fire.  It’s the content that reaches out to the edges, or comes at your idea in an entirely new way. Your audience might not be there yet or they might be right there with you.  It’s the crazy, never-been-done-before-and-might-fail ideas.  This is high-risk, but it has the potential to achieve the highest share rate and is also where your future 70-20% will come from.

Ultimately, content innovation is driven by the combination of old ideas and new configurations.  Readers don’t want to be told information in a static one-way drop.  They want to have a conversation about the information, be swept away into the information, they want to be affected and share that information within their own social circles.

Brand stories should be a distribution of creativity with a content excellence that would make a ruthless editor weep tears of joy.  You want to be dramatically different—not just noise in the digital airwaves.  But how many different ways can you do it?  The possibilities are endless!

A good example of a Brand leading their story through innovation is the grocery retail chain, Longo’s.   They are telling you their brand story—quite literally.   They are exercising their 10% and pioneering into new content configuration frontiers.  They are bringing journalistic blogging together with traditional publishing techniques for a compelling story that is fun, engaging, and worth the attention of their audience.

And hey, it can even be plopped into my e-reader with RSS.

This is an idea of brand storytelling through actual storytelling.  Check out Longo’s creative non-fiction brand story here.

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Filed under creative non-fiction, Social Media, social strategist, social writer

Chest bump the web—then high five your employees

Net policy or social media policy?  I hear both of these terms being thrown about as if they were interchangeable.  There is a difference.  There should be a difference.  The main distinction is the focus on what employees can do in the web world, rather than what they can’t.  An internet policy typically outlines employee internet use during work hours—and consequently the monitoring of that use.  A social media policy governs the individual interactions of your employees in the social sphere—as it relates to your brand—and can be much harder to monitor once an employee has clocked out and is operating in their own time.

There is a certain amount of trust, respect and responsibility that must accompany your employees when they venture out into the social web as a walking, talking, breathing, blogging extension of your brand.  Implementing a social policy—more like guidelines really—that impart the tremendous amount of social responsibility is imperative so that nobody ends up dooced.

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Filed under Social Media, social strategist, social writer

Embracing Google

Frequently I get asked about my office setup—being self-employed and all.  I find it a curious question, but I suppose folks want to compare their systems and processes and find something that might work for them.  My instinctual response is to lie—and lie big.  However, the short answer is that you have to figure it out for yourself.  The long answer illustrates a chaos that is not for the faint of heart.  I may be a bit old-school in my setup, but there is a generous helping of new-school. 

I happen to love paper.  It’s crisp, clean and shoots out of the printer like it’s an Olympic event.   I love scribbling on it in blue ink, and then crossing everything out in red. I write upside down, sideways, with printed letters, and with voracious scribbles using all available white space and then I scatter them around the room as part of this giant creative nest I’ve built for myself.  It’s comforting for me to see everything.  My thoughts down on paper, my tasks, and my plans— all in plain view—it’s inescapable.  I have coloured post-it notes tucked in and around that contain all my EUREKA! moments.  Those are the ones where I think I’ve just cured cancer or world hunger with some brilliant never-thought-of-before creative breakthrough.  Seeing those remind me of the excitement that pulsed through me in those moments, and that there are more of those moments to come.  It pushes me on when I doubt my choices.

To the outside world, I appear to be one stack of paper away from an audition for “Hoarders.”  But to those who know me, they know I work best in layers.  If I can see the walnut of my desk, I’m clearly not working hard enough.  I know that if I need my chicken-scratch notes from a series webinar 2 years ago—they are in stack 7 next to the bookshelf about halfway down.  Anyone who wants to steer clear of an ass-whoopin’ does NOT shuffle my papers around.

That said, I have also embraced some new-school and have immersed myself fully in progressive technology.  I have all the old standard equipment; desktop, laptop, printer, scanner, fax machine, telephone, cell phone, etc. but these are all slowly being replaced with the next best thing.  I purchased on-line dictionaries and references and only go to the shelf if I find a discrepancy.  I do fear that my arms may atrophy if I don’t lug that big book out now and again though.  My tired old fax machine (you know the one with the glossy-rolled paper?) finally gave me its swan song in the form of a perpetual cutter jam.  I painstakingly took it apart to see if it was operable, but its dead carcass still lingers in the corner—with guts hanging out.   It stays there available to be kicked around when clogged servers and slow response times dampen my spirits—and quite frankly, it’s thrilled to still have a job.  For the once or twice a year that I’m required to fax something, does the job.  It’s convenient and it’s free.

Instead of printed spreadsheets and databases filed in cabinets to keep track of my billable time, I use a virtual punch clock. I keep a copy of the program on my desktop, laptop and android.  It’s broken down by client and then again by project and I’ve programmed it to populate my invoices with the accrued hours.  Easy-peasy, right? Now if I could only remember to punch in. 

I have about 3 or 4 websites, 4 or 5 social assets, 10 email addresses and all of it is funnelled to me through Google.  Google is my BFF.  Make no mistake, it takes care of me.  It reminds me what needs to be done, it encourages me to keep going with endless information, and it stays up into the wee hours of the night keeping me company when I’m on a deadline.  Truth be told, it wasn’t that long ago that I scoffed at Google.  I was one of the unbelieving.  How could a search engine have ninja prowess and an addictive personality?  I was ignorant.  Five minutes with Google and my heart was engorged in a new love-affair.  This is a relationship that will outlast all others. 

My new short answer is “paper stacks and Google.” And that’s no lie. 


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Defiance [dih-fahy-uh ns] –noun: A daring or bold resistance to authority.

I defied nothing at all.

I followed the rules.  I obeyed the orders commanded by the subjective authority and cynicism of naysayers.  I let others dictate my pace and destination. 

And that is just not true to who I am.  

But I’ve been inspired anew and I’ve got a one finger salute ready.

I’m about to defy everything.

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Filed under non-fiction, social writer, Uncategorized

The News Writer versus the Social Writer

In this business, we writers watch each other very carefully.  We keep an especially twitchy eye trained on those corporate staff writers with their pages of accolades.  It’s not their fault.  The collective ego of society convinces us that there is value in those accolades.  They need it to have value.  But the new generation is on to them.  They’re bored with them.  The slow-acceptance of these primitive thinking newspaper executives allows them to keep ramming their ‘glory days’ references up our wazoos.  They tote by-lines noting decades of combined newspaper writing experience—like that means something now.  It doesn’t.  There is no edge there.  It’s just old news.

If you’ve been in southern Ontario, you might have heard of  It’s part of the Torstar conglomerate—residing under the Metroland division.   Having paid some dues in the Torstar ranks, I lack the restraint in using them as an example of newspaper ego.  With a history of contracting for them, I can tell you that they are—as any other large corporation—in it to win it.  Focus on numbers and profit, and understand very little about the culture they’re cultivating. 

They are big management types making uninformed decisions based on old-school thinking.  Times have changed for the print houses—but their mindsets have not.  They’re struggling to keep their traditional identities out there in a shifting landscape.  (It’s really more of a landslide.)  Enter the  Truthfully, I don’t know much about the division, and I do know a couple of good, qualified people tucked in to the production side of things.  However, this is an example of a traditional print house trying to carve out a corner of the new media market.  This translated identity is based on expired knowledge—and they seem to believe that it is a benefit to them.  Their social presence lacks personality and something about their blog started a school-house-size fire deep in the crevices of my writer patience.  There are three writers—all clearly part of the newspaper club—with a collection of flat information that reads like the dry pamphlets littering the waiting room of my dentist’s office.  Harsh, right?   Pffft!  I’m their audience too.

Us social writers, already eking out our living—in real time—know something about the new audience that newspaper folk just don’t know.   There is no apocalyptic gone-to-press deep breath.  You are engaging your audience the second you post—and you’d better have written something that captivates, woos their hard-working souls and embraces the social nature of everything.  The competition is tight.  Every second person you pass is a blogger.  Stories are free.  There is no query process for commercial anymore.  The competitive strategies for landing article gigs are obsolete.  There is no more old-school news.  Nobody wants it.  Nobody listens.  Nobody reads it.  If you’re not giving the reader a little bit of fun and a whole lot of wow—they’ve moved on to the next site that will.  250 words.  That’s how long you’ve got to entice your audience or they’ll be backing out of your page before it finishes loading.  News writers and feature writers listen up; you’ve become obsolete.  It’s time to get your toes wet as a Social writer—or get the deuce out of our way. 

I respectfully apologize (in advance) to the staff writers of the for posting an excerpt from their “About Us” page.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a run-on sentence that can dry out my corneas.  With 30 years of skilled newspaper writing and editing experience—who the frak edited this?

“The skilled team of writers at brings together the experience a 30-year veteran of newspapers and magazines who has worked as a news reporter, feature writer, senior editor and web editor; a writer and newswire service editor; and a consumer and trade magazines writer and online writer and editor.”

You lost me at skilled team of writers.


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Filed under non-fiction, on writing, Social Media, social writer, world news

One World. 24 Hours. 6 Billion Perspectives.

Documentaries are gaining immense notoriety these days.  Even my local video store has taken the time to negotiate documentary titles out of the genre muck and onto their own special rack.  

It may be the supernova of reality TV that has tuned folks in to a new found passion for independent documentary filmmakers, but regardless of how it came to be, documentaries offer us a broad category of visual expression that is based solely on a bias of that filmmaker.  It is the attempt to document reality—one with an unassuming agenda.

Add the technological advancements of the last year or so to this mix and you’ve got a documentary pandemic on your hands.  Every person on the planet is now a budding videographer; director and producer with endless amounts of open forum and tell-all creativity bursting forth from their over-saturated senses.  

Oh, yeah!  That’s entertainment folks!

It was only a matter of time before someone pieced the two together in a big crowd-sourced kind of way.  The Beastie Boys kicked it off in 2006 with their “Awesome; I F*ckin’ Shot That!” documentary on DVD after giving camcorders to 50 audience members of their sold-out concert in 2004 in Madison Square Gardens.  The mandate was to shoot everything and don’t stop rolling. 

Fast forward to present day and we’re sitting tight waiting for the release date of Director, Kevin MacDonald, and Producer, Ridley Scott’s documentary, “The Story of a Single Day on Earth.”  These boys decided to crowd-source videos through YouTube, asking users around the globe to submit their own videos of their life on one specific day—July 24, 2010—providing  a snap-shot of that one day on earth from the different perspectives.   

Life in a Day will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27th as well as a special YouTube debut on the same date at 8pm EST.  It’s going to be a fascinating experiment on the new age of social film-making.  Follow the countdown at

Maybe you’ll see the uberscribbler rolling out of bed at sunrise.  😉


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Filed under Awesome, Social Media, social writer, world news

Some porn with your Twitter? Nah… not today, thanks. I’m full.

It looks like Microsoft has just unlocked the idiot badge with Bing.  They’ve allowed the “mouse-over” technology to bring porn and virus sabotage to a hard drive near you.   You no longer have to worry about clicking on the wrong link—just move your mouse around the screen and the wrong link will find you.  No more struggles with your conscience about whether you should click that smutty link—just for a peak.  New windows will pop open automatically and the pleasures of all the nefarious offerings of the internet will be presented to you—in full, riveting colour. 

I was just sitting here wondering how I could get a new state-of-the-art search engine that turned off content filtering and left me as vulnerable as a baby bird in a cornucopia of pornography.  I mean, who wants that in their history, right?  Then, I thought, how could I exploit this technology—if I were a hacker—and cause some extreme spamming mayhem on Twitter this morning?  Awesome.  Thanks Microsoft.    


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Filed under Social Media, social writer, world news